Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Gandhi (1982).
I often compare epics to Lawrence of Arabia, my personal gold standard for the genre, but it seems particularly apt in this lengthy film about a lone man standing against the authority of the British Empire while still maintaining some respect for its laws and inspiring millions to reshape the world as we know it today. Certainly David Lean himself saw something inspiring as he made his own India-set film soon after. Though comparisons are rarely positive, in the case of Gandhi, a fascinating counter to Lawrence of Arabia is provided that adds to both films. Rather than being an instrument of the empire he abhors, Gandhi stands against it and where Lawrence took pleasure in inflicting pain, Gandhi set an incredible example of always rejecting violence. Yet, both men were instrumental in the liberation of many people and pivotal in the creation of problems that continue to plague the world today. Gandhi can be a bit on the slower side at times and delve into storylines that seem repetitive while ignoring the more unsavory aspects of Gandhi’s life and impact that have become more common to discuss today, but as an old fashioned portrait of a great man, it does a wonderful job at evoking the ideas he stood for and being an inspiring depiction of the ability of the world to resolve problems without resorting to violence.
The Real Best Picture:
E.T. is undeniably the film that has had a greater impact on me and one that still holds up as a heartwarming classic after any amount of rewatches, but I always appreciate a good epic and, for all its faults, it’s hard not to get caught up in the sweeping nature of Gandhi and come away in awe and appreciation of the man. Spielberg has much better films anyhow.